This Week’s City Council Roundup: 3/30/2021

1
844

The Burbank City Council met virtually on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 and began the meeting with the adjournment of retired Burbank Fire Engineer, Arthur “Art” Popkin, who worked for the department from 1964 to 1989.

Mayor Bob Frutos had five announcements at the beginning of the meeting. The first was on the Burbank Small Business COVID Assistance Program which is now open and accepting applications from micro-enterprises, small businesses and independent contractors impacted by COVID 19. Loans are on a first come first serve basis and you can apply at www.burbank.cceda.com. The second announcement was on the second round of Emergency Rental Assistance program which is now available for low income renters.

Passport services are open and available but appointments are highly encouraged. Processing times are 10-12 weeks and an expedited time of 4-6 weeks. Another announcement from Mayor Frutos was that the City Clerk’s office is accepting applications for two vacancies on the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority for a four year term ending May 31, 2025. The deadline for applications is Friday, April 30 at 5:00pm. Lastly, the Community Development Department will be hosting a California Environmental Quality Act Scoping Meeting for State-required updates to the Burbank2035 General Plan including the 6th Cycle (2021-2029) on March 31st at 6:00pm. To join the meeting visit www.burbankhousingelement.

Three proclamations were presented by Mayor Frutos at the meeting, including a proclamation declaring Monday, March 31, 2021 as “Cesar Chavez Day” in the City of Burbank. Principal Dr. Jennifer Meglemre, from the newly re-named Dolores Huerta Middle School, accepted the certificate. The second proclamation declared April 4-10, 2021 as National Library Week in the City of Burbank and was accepted by Emily Weisberg, Board of Library Trustees Chair. Lastly, a proclamation was declared condemning racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and was accepted by City Treasurer Krystle Palmer.

A presentation from Metro representative, Scott Hartwell addressed the Council about the Metro NoHo-Pasadena Bus Rapid Transit Project, providing an update on the project goals. Current goals are to address transportation issues, create a robust and reliable transit service, provide convenient access to local and regional activity centers, encourage transit as an alternative to automobiles, and to improve air quality for a healthier city. Two virtual public hearings were held and over 500 comments were received. The highlights showed no significant and unavoidable impacts as the project would reduce miles traveled, and provide better air quality, energy, and less greenhouse gas emissions, as well as noise.

BurCal Apartments8715

A new Olive Avenue Bridge Stop located was proposed at the original station location and could relocate the station to the top of the bridge if/when the bridge is widened. They looked at the conversion of one travel lane in each direction on Olive from Buena Vista to Glenoaks and Metro will implement the City’s suggested reroute through Alameda/Buena Vista to serve Disney studios, Providence Medical Center, and additional health service buildings. Mayor Frutos expressed concern for the businesses and residents in the area who would be affected by the removal of parking as the plan is to put the busses in the curb parking lanes.

Public comment was then opened up allowing callers 3 minutes to speak. While there were many topics addressed, the majority of calls revolved around the concerns regarding the upcoming restaurant, Raising Cane’s.  A representative from the restaurant also called in to let the public know that they would be holding a public community meeting soon.

The Consent Calendar was presented as followed and the 6th item was pulled by Vice Mayor Talamantes for questions at the end of the meeting. The calendar was voted on and approved in one motion with Councilmember Sharon Springer voting no to #7 and Mayor Frutos voting no to #7 and #8.

  1. Adopt an unmodified urgency ordinance extending the local commercial eviction moratorium by amending the ordinance to commercial tenants only.
  2. Approve the Housing Authority minutes
  3. Authorize the General Manager of Burbank Water and Power (BWP) to enter into an agreement between the City of Burbank and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to modify a service connection by installing a new flow meter.
  4. Approve and authorize the General Manager of BWP, as designee of the City Manager to enter into Amendment No.1 to the Cost Sharing Agreement and to execute any ancillary documents necessary to implement the agreement.
  5. Adopt a resolution approving a Funding Agreement between the City of Burbank and the Child Care Resource Center and authorizing the Parks and Recreation Department Director to execute the agreement.
  6. Approve a three-year agreement for BurbankBus Transit Operations and Maintenance Services, with MV Transportation, Inc., with two, one-year options to extend the agreement.
  7. Adopt an unmodified ordnance to cap commission rates for food delivery and non-delivery related service fees.
  8. Introduce an ordinance amending Burbank Municipal Code Section 2-1-413 regarding the Police Commission.

A public hearing was opened up regarding the adoption of a resolution for the Section 8 Program and report of the Burbank Public Housing Agency Annual Plan (Fiscal Year 2021-2022) and proposed administrative plan updates. Tricia Smith, a Housing Specialist, gave the presentation, expressing the program’s mission to assist the most needy and vulnerable households in the community. There are currently 880 voucher holders in Burbank with an estimated $10 million allocated for FY 2021-2022. The waitlist has approximately 30,000 applicants for Burbank. They stopped taking applications in 2016 and won’t open back up until the number of applications drops below 100.  Every two years they purge the list and check in with applicants to make sure they still qualify or are in need. A unanimous vote approved the adoption. 

A report was given to council from Marisa Garcia in the Parks and Recreation department providing an overview on the DeBell Golf Course.  In December of 2018 a five year management agreement was approved and Touchstone Golf Inc. assumed operation and maintenance of the golf course as well as the Hilltop Restaurant and Bar. Touchstone currently manages 41 golf courses, 17 of which reside in California. The company has provided new lithium golf carts, a new driving range ball dispensing machine, sand bunker renovations, clubhouse improvements and more. Their future plans are to improve performance, enhance service experience, player development, competitive fees, and course improvements. DeBell also allows the high school teams to practice for free, hosts matches and raised money to support the teams. The report was noted and filed.

A second report provided an informational update on Raising Cane’s restaurant at 1750 W. Olive Ave. The City Attorney, Amy Albano, spoke on why the presentation was a note and file, and that is because the developer has already implemented actions such as issued permits and construction. A presentation was given by Deputy City Planner, Scott Plambaeck, regarding the construction plan which facilities on-site parking and flow of traffic. The C-2 zone allows the existing bank use and proposed fast food restaurant use, and according to Burbank Municipal Code Section 10-1-1609 (D) the bank drive through window can be used for the restaurant as long as it was built before Dec 26, 1998, which it was. The window must remain at the same location and the modification can not result in an increase of pre-building permit value by 10% or more.

As for demolition, the existing building did not meet the required setbacks so the structure cannot be demolished to the extent of more than 50% of its replacement cost. The building official determined the proposed demolition is less than 50% and will now meet the required setbacks. Raising Cane’s is aware of the Municipal codes prohibiting congregation of people around their business and on public right of way to reduce noise and is working with staff to address all community concerns. Councilmember Springer expressed concern on the project and did not agree with the report.  Mayor Frutos asked what the city can do when traffic spills into the residential areas, and staff discussed options like parking restrictions and permits, barriers, turning arrows, and addressing whole neighborhoods, not just just single streets to avoid overflow. The report was noted and filed.

A report as presented on an update to Burbank’s brand implementation via Simone McFarland, the Public Information Officer.  The new brand is to supplement and not replace the city seal and covers logo, font, and the hidden play button in the center of the “B.” The play button represents the media companies that exist in Burbank. Each city department chose their own color in the “B” to represent their team and the logos will be placed on city vehicles as they come in for maintenance. Police and fire vehicles will not be updated. Three color choices were presented to the Council for the City Council logo and the second recommendation was approved for a logo with hues of purple, pink and blue.

Lastly, a report was given on the new City website from Kevin Gray, which has a target launch of April 15th. The new website will have the updated brand as the foundation of the look and feel with simple visuals, broken text, geometric shapes and lines, easy to use buttons, more photos, and a visible search.  A breaking news banner will be on the homepage with any emergency updates and icons on the homepage help people with the top five things people search for. A news box and events/meeting box also appear on the homepage.  The website can be easily switched over to in Spanish or Armenian.

MT

1 COMMENT

  1. Dear Friends in High Places:

    In virtually every City Council meeting something important is missing…

    A plan to drastically improve permit/plan check timeframes to get new businesses opened. Are you aware of the major backlog? You are extending an eviction moratorium for commercial property owners who are not being paid rent but then your permit/plan check is slower than molasses so that new business start ups are substantially delayed–those are entrepreneurs who are ready to pay rent but the property owner cannot move them in without, for example, an ADA compliance upgrade.

    The City of Burbank is currently dealing with a deficit of millions and millions of dollars and your council meetings are focused on golf courses, price fixing and helping property owners go bankrupt too? Your treatment of our small business community has not been good. Small assistance is nice but will hardly sustain the future of the Burbank business community. You have put all your time and effort into approving big projects like those belonging to Jeff Worthe, while small companies are at the back of the line waiting on permits.

    And limiting delivery service rates is a slippery slope. That is un-American. There are no monopolies in that industry.

    I have substantial concerns that the ordinance will deprive investors in these public companies their due process rights owed to them. When a government harms a person without following the exact course of the law, this constitutes a due process violation, which offends the rule of law. The city has a duty to review the legal precedents
    Federal Power Commission v. Hope Natural Gas Co., 320 U.S. 591, 603 (1944) (citing Chicago & Grand Trunk Ry. v. Wellman, 143 U.S. 339, 345–46 (1892); and Missouri ex rel. Southwestern Bell Tel. Co. v. Public Serv. Comm’n, 262 U.S. 276, 291 (1923)). Rates fixed by any government authority must be such as will yield a fair return upon the value of the funds or property devoted to the public service and what we are talking about here is declaring that delivery services should be regulated as a public service in the same was as a utility.

    Ultimately, in order for food delivery to be successful, it must be a win-win-win scenario. The restaurant needs to make money. The third-party delivery company needs to make money. The customer needs to be satisfied. Capital investment in these firms involves substantial debt that has been funded by institutional and individual investors—who expect a return on that investment. The precedent of local price controls means that these companies will have to hire more programmers, create new iterations of their software to address the requirements of each jurisdiction and this additional complexity will result in higher costs that must be paid by someone. Ultimately it is the consumer who pays for everything, not the stores and restaurants.

    These services are more than a connector of customer to restaurant to freelance delivery driver. These companies provide:

    • A complete replacement for the store and restaurants’ online website—eliminating the need to hire a separate IT person to set up a server, develop ordering software, maintain that software and pay monthly server hosting and patching fees. Merchants have proven time and time again that undertaking anything remotely technical in-house becomes a financial disaster. If the only two options are to partner with a third party or build it internally and owners rarely build their own sites.
    • The retailers and restaurants receive co-op advertising provided by these platforms. That advertising replaces the restaurant’s need to advertise online entire. This co-op advertising allows these companies to compete with larger franchises that also charge fees. For example, a Subway franchisee is required to pay 12.5% of their gross sales towards franchise royalties and the company’s national advertising campaigns. This does not include the cost of delivering orders to customers. Taco Bell franchisees pay 10% of their gross sales towards franchise royalties and advertising, again before paying any cost of delivery of their food. Uber/Postmates, Grubhub and Doordash are including their national ad campaigns that bring customers to these establishments, in their fee.

    As an investor in public companies, I would perceive these to be uninspiring numbers. These companies did not “clean up” in 2020.

    • DoorDash had a 16% net loss
    • Grubhub had a 4.7% net profit margin
    • Uber had a 1.8% net profit margin

    Regulations in the ride share industry drove up prices. All the regulations and fees assessed mean that a fare for a short few mile trip was a practical $3 or $4 ride share for a person without a car who didn’t wish to take a bus and now these same fares are $7 to $9. The cost to go to Burbank airport has doubled since 2014 but wages have not doubled in that same time. Competition sets prices not regulations and there is no evidence of price fixing within the industry. The proposed ordinance refers to restaurants that do not operate their own delivery service needing to be competitive. It is not the City’s role in business to define competition nor help or hurt it.

    Many Staff arguments are unsubstantiated. The City has not demonstrated a clear understanding of the economics of the restaurant industry and the cost or cost savings that are realized by the use of the food on demand platforms. The included advertising and elimination of a need for a separate website, there is a substantial cost savings to restaurants because they do not have to hire an outside company to build their online ordering site, it’s provided for them. They save hiring costs, avoid delivery driver turnover, eliminate legal liability for accidents and they can scale up or down instantly. The value offered to merchants and restaurants by being able to scale up and down instantly is nontrivial. It is yet another competitive advantage that they achieve by using the platforms.

    Uber/Postmates, Grubhub and Doordash are not monopolies. Restaurants can simply stop using these companies and hire their own driver. If the City engages in this regulation, they will have no incentive to do so to the detriment of the platforms as well as to the other customers who will, by fee shifting, end up paying more, even if that it only a tiny tinsy bit more, setting yet another bad precedent.

    This matter does not meet the legal test of protecting public peace, health, safety, and welfare. The City would be forcing platforms to assist in the alleged recovery of restaurants to the detriment of consumers, investors and creditors.

    Of course the Pasadena survey yielded a desire to cut fees, who wouldn’t appreciate paying less for anything. In order to serve the needs of interest payments on debt and to return a reasonable profit to stockholders, public companies have to generate a certain amount of income. Stockholders demand it. Poor results means that stock prices go down and if a company cannot sustain it’s debt payments, it will be forced into bankruptcy. The American economy is driven by investment and innovation and price controls will cause a chilling effect and jeopardize future investment in these type of industries.

    Enforcement will be expensive and if enforcement is not activated then class action lawsuits may occur, further increasing the underlying cost of the service. The City’s law enforcement personnel must focus on more pressing matters. The proposed ordinance seeks to control wages which is a pandora’s box in a city as small as ours.

    The idea that the local government becomes an agent of collective bargaining has deep-reaching ramifications which will not doubt land us in court.
    Remember that not all gig economy services survived, for example Sidecar had a stellar beginning and is now defunct. The same could happen to these firms if governments start standing in the way of the free market forces that make America a wonderful place for business.

    The ordinance would affect a large class of persons, namely the delivery drivers who use the online food ordering and delivery platforms as a means of producing income; as well as investors in these publicly-traded companies. The government must balance the interests of the general public and those of investors in these public companies; and I am concerned that such an ordinance will be legally challenged. There are constitutional limits on price controls. There are no monopolies in the online food ordering and delivery platform industry. There is healthy competition and the restaurants and other merchants that use these online food ordering and delivery platforms can take other measures including hiring delivery drivers themselves.

    Outsourcing is a time and cost savings and allows a small operation to multiply its efforts in an instant without the burden of hiring their own drivers. In essence, a one or two person kitchen could operate like a “big” company instantly without having to deal with human capital development and liability.

    Also having a unique accounting schema for Burbank will raise technology and administrative costs, which will ultimately bear down on someone and if the end-consumer isn’t paying, it will be a zero sum game of taking away from the drivers in the form of lower compensation. All regulatory actions involve costs to the firms that must comply and there’s no free lunches, someone will pay or these firms will potentially withdraw from the market entirely in protest and end up forcing the merchants to deal with hiring their own drivers.

Comments are closed.